Middle managers' experience of enhancing safety culture in Finnish nuclear power plants

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School of Business | Master's thesis
MSc program in Management and International Business
MSc program in Management and International Business
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Middle management and their contribution to organizational performance has been a continuous topic in management studies over the past years. Middle managers have an influential position in the middle of the organization, affecting both workforce and top management decision-making processes. The position of middle managers has been studied in different industries and types of organizations. In this study, middle managers' experiences are studied in the context of nuclear safety management. Safety management is a central issue in the nuclear business, and a concept of safety culture has been developed in the industry to address the importance of organizational aspects to the safety of a nuclear power plant. "A good safety culture" is an objective required from the nuclear power organizations by the regulatory bodies, and the concept of safety culture has been studied widely in the field of high-risk organizations. In addition to defining the term safety culture, many studies have also focused on developing measurement criterions for the state of safety culture. In this thesis, middle managers' experience of enhancing safety culture in Finnish nuclear power plants is investigated in a qualitative study. The empirical study consists of 12 middle manager interviews from the operating nuclear power plants in Finland. The objective of the study is to investigate how middle managers understand the concept of safety culture, how they experience their own position in safety culture enhancement and how they experience methods to enhance safety culture. The thesis is an explorative study and complements previous research by examining the phenomenon of safety culture from a perspective of managerial experience. The middle managers' experiences are analyzed with the regulations and safety culture policies of the nuclear power organizations. The main findings of the study show that the concept of safety culture is used extensively on the strategic level of the power companies but the lower organizational levels find the abstract term hard to define. Middle managers experienced a lack of common understanding of the meaning of the term. The interviewees gave numerous examples of the methods they use to enhance safety in their work practices but hesitated to call it safety culture enhancement. Furthermore, the middle managers experienced that safety culture enhancement was embedded in all practices and was everyone's responsibility, instead of stating it as managerial responsibility to be enhanced. The study concludes that the safety culture enhancement is embedded in work practices in Finnish nuclear power plants but also reveals a need for future development to increase managers' awareness and abilities to enhance safety culture systematically.
management, johtaminen, organizational culture, organisaatiokulttuuri, nuclear energy, ydinvoima
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